IN Atlanta, Ga., the 25th day of December last was made an occasion of revelry and crime, by the baser element of the population, to an extraordinary degree. The result was a proposition by the chairman of the police committee of the city council to obtain legislation which would secure a “proper observance” of the day. The following information relative to the project is furnished by the Atlanta Journal of January 7:—
“Alderman Joseph Hirsch, the new chairman of the police committee of the city council, proposes to secure legislation that will bring about a proper observance of Christmas as a religious holiday. The alderman thinks that rowdyism and riotous conduct should not be permitted on Christmas and is determined to at least make an effort to put a stop to the practice prevalent here of celebrating Christ’s birthday as if it were the Fourth of July.
“‘I propose, if possible, to secure legislation that will prevent a repetition of the disgraceful conduct on the part of rowdies which has characterized Christmas in Atlanta in the past,’ said Alderman Hirsch, this morning. ‘Christmas is a holiday in celebration of the beginning of the Christian era, and by the Christians is regarded as a holy day. Therefore, it should be observed as such. In the north, east, west and, in fact, everywhere but here, the people observe Christmas as a holy day and attend divine worship. But here the day is turned into a regular Fourth of July. The streets are given over to rowdies, their riotous conduct disturbs the peace as well as the devotions of good citizens. This, I think, is all wrong, and I propose to start a movement that will result in the day being properly observed.’
“Captain Connolly, chief of police, heard the remarks of the chairman of the police committee and stated that his views coincided exactly with those of Mr. Hirsch. He said the police did their best to keep order, but were unable to do so.”
Anyone familiar with the history of Sunday legislation can easily see the exact parallel which will be furnished by the development of Christmas into a legal “holy day,” with the development of the legal “sabbath.” First appears the fact that the holiday is made an occasion of unusual lawlessness. This has long been the case with Sunday. For reasons which require no great study to understand, Sunday has long contributed more cases for the police court dockets than any other day of the week. To this fact the champions of Sunday have long been calling public attention; and that this Sunday lawlessness was exceedingly bad and demanded a remedy, could not be denied. And the “remedy” proposed and in many instances secured, was a stricter law for Sunday observance.
Upon the same ground precisely it is now proposed to secure such an observance of Thanksgiving as will not conflict with the religious exercises of the day. By the same logic these “holy days” stand or fall together.
No one denies the evil of the rioting and criminal excess which our holidays so frequently bring forth. But the proposed remedy can only make the matter worse. Idleness can never become a remedy for crime.
There is no reason why people should not be required to behave themselves as well on Sunday, Christmas, or any legal holiday, as on any other day of the year; and there is no reason why they should not be required to conduct themselves as decently on every day as on these days. There can be no reason whatever for making Christmas, Sunday, or Thanksgiving legally different from other days in this respect.
The only remedy for holiday lawlessness is to cut off the opportunity from those to whose natures such conduct is congenial. In other words, they should be kept at work. If they were not so frequently cut off from honest work by these holidays, the civil authorities would not so often be called upon to furnish them with work in the penal institutions of the State.